Climate diplomacy is multi-faceted and characterised by a variety of implications and interpretations depending on region, culture, discipline or socio-economic background. Different narratives on the diplomatic challenges and opportunities climate change presents resonate with different audiences. Therefore, framing the issue in various ways can help achieve foreign policy responses tailored to the specific needs of different geographies and sectors. These narratives facilitate informal and continuous engagement on climate change, notably by respective diplomatic networks. The narratives aim at providing concise lines of argumentation linking climate change challenges to wider or sectorial entry points and opportunities.

Following discussions in international and regional settings with a broad array of stakeholders, adelphi has developed narratives that illustrate the abundance and diversity of potential foreign policy approaches to climate change.

These narratives are based on the experience gained in consultations with stakeholders around the globe. They are intended to inspire dialogue among foreign policy-makers and help guide effective decision- making processes to address the challenges of climate change.

There are two ‘poles’ of overarching narratives of key relevance to climate diplomacy:

On the one hand, climate change is a threat to livelihood security, requiring stepped-up efforts on adaptation and resilience, and has geopolitical implications. Climate change threatens livelihoods through resource degradation and the growing intensity and frequency of disasters. Many countries fear that it will become increasingly difficult to meet the basic needs of their populations. And indeed, climate change pressures are expected to be linked to patterns of economic migration, with local resource pressures affecting livelihoods in many areas. Climate change can also converge with other pressures and stressors on states and societies that produce a wide range of fragility risks and geopolitical tensions. Changing geographies of rivers or glaciers may require diplomatic initiatives to balance interests and avoid disputes over borders or water rights. Foreign policies to address these challenges include joint risk assessments, the renewal and adjustment of international agreements, and natural resource governance initiatives. Foreign and development policies can support the strengthening of adaptive capacities through economic diversification, investment in infrastructure and agriculture, and the promotion of integrated water and resource management and disaster preparedness. Integrating policies and programmes in three key sectors – climate change adaptation, development and humanitarian aid, and peacebuilding – is necessary to help strengthen resilience to climate-fragility risks.

On the other hand, climate action represents an opportunity for sustainable growth and development. To ensure that the Paris Agreement will be a sustainable success, active engagement is required to fully implement the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and to ratchet up ambition in the coming years. A sustainable transformation of the economy can deliver long-term prosperity and improved energy and resource security. Diplomats will therefore have to convey one key argument more convincingly than ever before: if we compare the costs and all benefits, it is clearthat climate action is an imperative as it simply makes economic sense. Carbon-intensive fuels, resources and processes come at great cost to human lives, the environment and longer-term economic development. Investment in environmentally sound technologies provides a large source of new and stable ‘green jobs’ whilst reducing the economic and social costs of pollution. Diplomacy can go a long way in helping to create the conditions for the sustainable transition we need. For example, bilateral and multilateral partnerships can serve as meaningful instruments for overcoming barriers to trade and investing in low-carbon technologies.

Further entry points can be found in sectorial policies, e.g. energy and land use, or instruments such as emission trading or climate finance. Covering all of them is beyond the scope of this booklet. The following pages will provide a glimpse of selected emerging or enhanced narratives identified by the climate diplomacy initiative: water diplomacy, food security, urbanisation, and the benefits of climate action.


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